Typhoo Tea: Brief History

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Typhoo Tea, England

Launched in 1903 by Birmingham, England, grocer John Sumner, Typhoo has been waking tea drinkers for nearly 100 years. Today, Typhoo Tea is one of world’s favorite teas.

Raised in a grocery business family, Sumner, was born on February 26, 1856 in Birmingham. At the turn of the 20th century, the business had extensive stock of wine and spirits, a stout and cider bottling brand and a grocery side. Sumner successfully ran the business for years but sought a specialty product to develop.

He found the answer when his sister, who suffered from indigestion, tried a special tea made from tiny particles, not the large leaf variety that was common. Sumner decided that, instead of selling the tea loose over the counter, he would packet the tea under a brand name. He settled on Typhoo Tipps. Typhoo meaning, in part, the Chinese word for doctor. The double p in Tipps was originally a printing error but remained misspelled on the packets of tea for years.

Typhoo was the first brand of tea to be sold pre-packaged rather than loose over the counter. In order to encourage his customers to purchase the tea, Sumner gave away a jar of cream to each person that bought a pound packet. The tea quickly became popular and customers were becoming loyal to the brand that, even though a little more expensive, went further and had digestive qualities.

Word of mouth recommendation from his customers led beyond his regular clientele and soon other grocers were asking to purchase the Ty.phoo tea, inspiring a wholesale business.

In 1905, Sumner closed the grocery business to focus on the tea. On July 29, 1905 , Typhoo Tea Ltd was incorporated. Sumner drew attention to tea made from the edge of the leaf. This pure-edge leaf tea produced 80 more cups to the pound than ordinary tea and also cut out the stalk that contained tannin and caused indigestion.

As early as 1906 Sumner sold Typhoo branded teapots to customers. He also inserted circulars into the tea packets to highlight its benefits, and included picture cards on a range of subjects, which became very collectible. By the mid 1960s, Ty.phoo was annually packing more than 80 million pounds of tea and exporting to 40 countries worldwide.

In the late 1960s, the company merged with Schweppes, the famous soft drinks firm, and formed a new company called Typhoo Schweppes. A year later, Cadbury’s also joined the conglomeration, creating Cadbury Schweppes Typhoo.

In 1986 Typhoo was sold and the new company called Premier Brands. Premier continued to expand its tea operation by acquiring the herbal tea market leader, London Herb & Spice.

In 1989 Premier Brands was bought by Hillsdown Holdings and then in 1999 by Hicks Muse Tate and Furst. Further product developments were seen in 1999 when Typhoo became the first tea brand to introduce a green tea blend to the UK market and, in 2004, with the launch of Typhoo Fruit and Herb.

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